Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Manfeild 6-hour Challenge 2013

That’s my 2nd Laskey Cycles Manfeild Challenge just done.  The Manfeild is a 6-hour team/solo race around a 3km racing-car track.  Not anything like an endurance race, but there are several things about it that attract me.  I wanted to support Tim Neal (The Potato Guy), a local endurance cyclist who has sponsored several riders over the years.  Also a 6-hour ride would fit well into where I am with my training, although ideally not at race pace.  And third, I actually really enjoy it!

For me, it’s a sociable occasion.  I ride hard, but take time to chat with the various people I come across on the track.  It’s also good to catch up with fellow endurance riders.  And it’s exciting!  There were quite a few good cyclists going hard out, with the team relay system meaning that they could put everything into it, rest up, then give it all again.  Talk about poetry in motion!

The Manfeild Challenge - something to enjoy!

Like last year, I truly did it solo, diligently staying away from any bunches and not drafting.  There was no wonderful reason for this.  If anything, its that I didn't want to spend the whole time freeloading off stronger riders and not being able to pull my weight at the front.  At least I would know it was all my own effort when I reached the finishing line.  Despite this, I received quite a few offers from passing riders to hop on, both friends and strangers.  As I said, the place had a good atmosphere.

Not surprisingly, the first hours were spent watching groups lap me over and over.  It was great watching them.  Their sizes would fluctuate but probably got smaller as time ticked by.  Somewhat dishearteningly, I noticed that even when people dropped off, they were going a lot faster than me, which was a bit soul-destroying.  No matter, it was all good training and I just plugged on.

And I rode pretty hard!  My heart rate was just under 155 bpm for most of that time.  I would have gone slightly slower and kept my speed at a consistent pace if the race mattered, but I gave in to the pressure of having people passing me at pace all the time.  In the end, it didn’t matter, as it was training. And, in this case, training the mental side was an important part of it.

3 of the Potato Guy team - Craig, Tim (The Potato Guy), and Matt
Nick Dunne, Mike and an aspiring athlete - Nick's nephew
Ted - the smiling boy wonder- and his dad, Adrian

The great thing about racing is that it puts you into that discomfort zone.  This is in contrast to training where, even when doing a hard session, you always have the ability to ease up.  Even if you don’t, just knowing that you can takes pressure off.  However, there’s no such let-up with racing.  The race was only for 6 hours, but it was uncomfortable.  So, no matter how modest, it was an opportunity to practice mind control – not thinking of the hours to go or the discomfort, but living in the present, focusing on technique, keeping positive and happy, interacting with people on the track, and so on.

I've read how ultra-cyclists find that their pain shifts.  First it might be an agonizing back that dominates the mind, then after a while it is pain in the shoulders.  This too was my experience, albeit at a laughingly more modest level.  A sore right knee was the first ache I was conscious of – an on-going problem that made me wonder just how many years I would be able to give to this sport.  But soon the knee was forgotten, and I was shifting uncomfortably from saddle sores from previous training rides.  Then my arms began to ache.  And the last couple of hours were spent warding off leg cramps.  There’s definitely a lesson there – in most instances, pain is momentary!

I have a question for you.  What, in your opinion, is the essence of endurance cycling?  In my mind, it is only one thing – being prepared and able to suffer.  Endurance cycling doesn't have the buzz and excitement of other sports, nor the joy of being able to interact with team members.  It’s lonely and it’s hard.  I also think that it’s shortening, not lengthening, my life.  The only reward you get is knowing that you managed to reach through that pain, to stay on the narrow path, and to reach your goal.  The harder the journey, the greater the satisfaction!  However, these fine words don’t get you past the inescapable fact that you are going to hurt!  And with all the yarning and boasting that is so easy to fall into when talking with friends and family, it’s good to be reminded of that.  Even with the aid of a modest 6 hour race.
Nick Dunne (RAAM 2012)
Craig McGregor (Randonneur extraordinaire) - fresh from a 200 km ride the day before
and preparing for a 1200 km brevet in Alaska next month.

So, how did I do?  My computer had me averaging around 30 km/hour for the first part of the race, although I slowed down a lot in the later hours.  Getting cramp didn’t help.  Also, 40 minutes from the end, my rear gear cable broke leaving me in the highest gear (smallest sprocket).  I managed to complete 59 laps.  This was a bit down on last year’s 61 laps, but I think that I might have drafted a wee bit at the beginning of that race.  How far and how fast was that?  I’m not really sure.  My bike computer (untested) showed 160 km at an average speed of 26.7 kph.  However, the official lap distance is 3.03 km, which would mean 179 km at an average speed of 29.8 kph.  Probably my bike computer has the correct stats, but I know which I prefer!  The results can be viewed through this link:

In the end, I was pleased with the work-out.  Fitness-wise, I had no trouble, so it reflects well on my training.  I had problems with speed though and my legs are still very sore.  Again, that’s not a surprise, as the strength/speed part of my training schedule has not yet started.  So, all in all, a good exam-mark.

And great to ride with Nick, Craig, Tim, Matt and countless others.  Thanks also to Tim and Liz for putting us all up the previous night.
No-one behind me - either I'm well ahead of the pack or they've passed me, again and again!


  1. "The essence of endurance cycling"?

    Suffering is overrated. It's all about loving to ride your bike, finding how much further you can ride and all the new places that you find along the way.

  2. Thanks for your comment Craig.

    I've got to agree that there are a lot of wonderful things about this sport; it's not all doom and gloom. However, I still hold to my comment. In the end, I suppose that it comes down to what attracts one to the sport. For me, it is the idea of pushing myself beyond limits I previously thought I was incapable of reaching. Hence, suffering and riding through that suffering is indeed the essence. Not exactly the product of a well-balanced personality, but I've never claimed to have one. Randonneuring as a form of ultra-cycling has a far more positive and healthy attitude, but surely no-one can think of the Race Across America as being anything other than dealing with pain and discomfort? How the rider handles this will determine how well they do.

    Cheers, Andrew

  3. The Laskey Cycles Manfeild Challenge a 6 hour endurance bike ride sounds like a lot of fun. I am more used to just going for rides around where I live but the Challenge sounds great!